Arizona Sheriff Dares Sharpton to Show Up

Published June 5, 2009

A controversial Arizona sheriff says he dares the Rev. Al Sharpton to visit his town to protest policies against inmates and undocumented workers.

Some months ago, Sharpton threatened to march on Phoenix unless Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio resigned. Sharpton has been an outspoken critic of what he says is Arpaio’s penchant for detaining even legal Mexican immigrants and embarrassing and dehumanizing those held in his jail. But in a letter dated June 3, Arpaio shot back at the high-profile civil rights leader.

"This is about you making self-serving, grandiose pronouncements, making outrageous statements at meaningless press conferences,” the sheriff writes. “I'm not abandoning my promise to the people to enforce the State and Federal immigration laws and protect this community.” Arpaio continued, He put a word out that if I don't resign by June 1, he's coming down here with all his demonstrators. I just wanted to let him know I am not resigning. If you want to come, come on down. We have nothing to hide." He even invited Sharpton to tour his facilities firsthand.

Several months ago, Arpaio began dispatching his deputies into heavily Latino neighborhoods in Phoenix to stop and arrest anyone who could not prove U.S. citizenship. To date, according to published reports, they have arrested thousands, sparking protests from Hispanic activists.

"I am first calling for the resignation and or removal of Sheriff Arpaio … harassment based on color is nothing short of racial profiling, which many of us … helped to fight to make against the law," Sharpton told reporters in April. Sharpton’s actions triggered an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, and the House Judiciary Committee held hearings on the controversial practices. "Arpaio needs to be confronted; he needs to be removed. … We also need to suspend the law that he is using. We must stand with our brown brothers and sisters," Sharpton said.

Written by BET.com Staff

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